With just a week to go for the G-20 summit in Delhi, Chinese President Xi Jinping has not confirmed his presence at the meeting on September 9-10, sources in Delhi and Beijing said, amid reports that he may skip the high-powered meeting. Most other leaders, including U.S. President Joseph Biden, and leaders of the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia etc have already confirmed they will be present, and are expected to arrive at various times on September 8. In addition, Saudi Prince MbS is likely to be given an exceptional welcome as a State guest, and will stay on for a bilateral visit on September 11.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have already regretted India’s invitation for the G-20, and will send Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Mexican Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro Sanchez respectively in their place. In case, Mr. Xi doesn’t attend, international news agency Reuters reported that the Chinese Premier Li Qiang would replace him at the Summit, after attending the East Asia Summit in Jakarta on September 7.
“I have nothing to offer in this regard at the moment”, said Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson Wang Wenbin, when asked about the reports about President Xi and Premier Li on Thursday.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) declined to comment. When asked about the confirmation from leaders including Mr. Xi at a briefing earlier this month, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said, “It would be a better place for the visitors to respond to whether they’re coming…We have invited all the participants and we look forward to their participation.”
Mr. Xi’s absence from the G-20 would be a break from the past, and would see as a downgrading of China’s participation in the Delhi summit, say analysts, at a time when several differences persist in producing a consensus joint statement at the summit.
Since taking over as President in 2013, the Chinese President has attended every G-20 in-person and virtual summit, apart from the Rome G-20 in 2021, when China was still in the grip of the COVID pandemic. Last year, Mr. Xi attended the Bali G-20 summit as well, and a decision not to travel to Delhi would be significant, especially given that he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met just a week ago on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa.
Since then, New Delhi and Beijing have sparred over the readouts of that meeting, with Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra saying the two leaders, who met in the leader’s lounge for an informal, unscheduled conversation, had agreed to direct officials for an “expeditious disengagement and de-escalation” of troops to resolve the situation at the Line of Actual control (LAC). This week, the MEA has crossed swords with the Chinese MFA over China’s publication of a “standard map” that includes Indian territory, including Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. On Thursday, the MFA in Beijing also took issue with the travel of three retired former military chiefs to Taiwan on August 8.
“We hope the country concerned [India] will abide by the one-China principle, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues and refrain from having any form of military and security cooperation with Taiwan,” Mr. Wang said during the MFA briefing.